Preventing ankle sprains in barefoot athletes such as gymnasts, dancers, and participants in martial arts is important. Sport shoes give good support and stability but are not practical in these activities.
The use of an external ankle support system is under investigation. In this study the effect of ankle support used inside a shoe is compared to wearing it without the support of a shoe. The goal is to find an external support for use in barefoot sports activities.
Three different devices were tested using two different shoe configurations. The external supports included a semirigid brace, a soft brace, and tape. The shoes used were a normal sports shoe and the same shoe with a specially designed cutout to simulate a barefoot condition. The Nike Cross Training XT shoe was used for everyone.
Passive ankle range of motion (ROM) was measured in 25 healthy adults. Motion was retested for each subject wearing the different combinations of devices and shoes. A total of eight conditions were tested for each subject.
Results showed that using any of the external supports restricted ankle motion compared to being barefoot or wearing the cut out shoe with no support. Tape provided more stability than the bracing. Results were the same for the semirigid and the soft brace.
The authors suggest soft braces can be used as a preventive measure in barefoot sports. They give good passive stability but without restricting the motion needed for the activity. Tape gives the best support but it doesn’t last more than 20 minutes. Over time, the cost of tape is much more than the expense of a brace.